watching, reading, and writing stories

Movie Musicals: Into the Woods Annie

This past week I had the opportunity to see several movies, including the musicals: Into the Woods and Annie. I don’t recall seeing Into the Woods before, but I knew the general plot of rewriting the old fairytales. And Annie has been one of my favorite musicals ever since I was a little kid. I’ve seen it multiple times on stage and I’m pretty sure the old movie version was watched at least once by my family. In any case, I usually like movie adaptations of musicals. I like the music, even if it gets stuck in my head and generally the storylines of musicals are just as compelling as other movies. So into the movie theater I went to see these two movie versions of classic plays.

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I’ll start with Into the Woods, since I saw it first. Even with the familiarity of the fairytale stories, I enjoyed getting to see the characters fleshed out by new actors and I particularly liked seeing Little Red Riding Hood being a sneaky little girl who took way more sweets than she needed. Since I hadn’t seen this play before, I actually thought the movie was over when everyone was getting their happily ever after. I had the brief thought of “what about that other bean stalk?” but everyone was so happy that I thought it wasn’t a big deal. And then the change came, people cheated, died and the happily ever after became a lie. I liked the realism this change brought to the characters and I especially liked the song about who to blame. It’s easy to get caught up in finding someone to blame for our problems, when the truth is we are just as much to blame as they are. So in the end, even though the story changed, I was pleased with the outcome, and how the characters who were still alive had changed too. And the “Into the Woods” song won’t be leaving my thoughts anytime soon.

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Onto Annie, this story I know very well, and I was intrigued by the preview for this movie and how they were updating it for a new generation. A lot of the classic songs were still included and even a tip of the hat to the old version with the opening scene showing a little red headed girl tap dancing who was also named Annie. But then the story shifts and we get to see a world more similar to what we know. And even though new songs were added, characters were changed, and the story departed from the original, I still found myself enchanted by this movie. I especially liked how the lady who boarded the orphan girls had more of a backstory and was more relateable to the audience. I enjoyed her character a lot more than the previous version and was happy that she got to become more of a heroine than a villain in the end. The only complaint I would have is that a few of the songs sounded a little “fake” to me, as if they were recorded by a different actor and then lip-sinked to the one playing the character. But even with that, I still enjoyed the movie.

So if you too enjoy a good musical, I would highly recommend either of these movies.

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The Hobbit and Movie Adaptations

The Hobbit text

I’ve been rereading the Hobbit recently. As you might recall, right before I took my trip to Haiti I watched the movie and got all excited about going on my own adventure. Well now that I’m back, I’ve decided to read the book again. I haven’t read it in years and there are many parts that I had completely forgotten about. Reading it is getting me excited for the next movie in Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

Speaking of movies based on books, I’ve always been interested in film adaptations. It’s an interesting process for whoever is writing the screenplay, because you can’t take the actual book and make it a movie, you have to take out parts, change things and make it flow as a movie. No audience would sit through a ten hour movie, so changes have to be made. However, the changes made are very noticeable to an audience that loves the original story. I think it takes a brave person to turn a book into a movie; you could get a lot of praise or a ton of criticism.

I find it odd that some filmmakers choose to add in some scenes that are not based on the book. It seems more logical to me to use the book’s material first and only cut out what is not necessary, not create new scenes that have no basis in the book. However, I can’t complain too much, because there are times that I really enjoy what the filmmakers have changed. For example in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, a scene is added with Aragorn getting separated from his friends. This scene has no basis in the book, but I love it. It adds suspense and drama to the story and honestly it’s one of my favorite scenes to watch.

But most of the time when filmmakers do this I am angry. One of the best examples of this comes from the first Percy Jackson movie. I had read the book before I saw the movie, so I knew all about the crazy adventure that had happened in the book. And there were a lot of things wrong with the movie, but one thing that seemed worse than the rest was adding a pointless battle scene at the Parthenon in Nashville. It had no basis in the book whatsoever and took time away so that other more interesting plot points had to be left out.

Although there is some fault to a filmmakers decisions, I’ve also found that I am partly to blame for my reaction to a movie that is based on a book. I’ve found that depending on how recently I’ve read a book, I will either enjoy or not enjoy the movie adaptation. It seems that if I either have no clue what the storyline is supposed to be, or have read the book so long ago that I can’t remember details, that I thoroughly enjoy the movie adaptation. However, if I read the book right before seeing the movie, all I can see is all the changes that were made and feel upset at the “good” parts that were left out, or the things that were changed.

A perfect example of this comes from my experience watching the Chronicles of Narnia movies. I can’t remember exactly when I read each book, but I have read them all now, and seen all of the movies that have recently come out. However my responses to the second and third movies were extremely different based largely on the fact of when I had read the book it was based on.

When I saw Prince Caspian, the second movie, I had recently read the book and was upset by even little things like the hair color of characters that I had pictured differently. I noticed every little thing that was changed, like added battle scenes, and was left upset that the movie didn’t live up to my expectations.

However, when the Voyage of the Dawn Treader came out a few years later, I watched it without rereading the book. I could only remember a few relevant parts from the book, all of which were included in the movie. So I ended up loving the movie, the message, and found the whole experience very enjoyable. In fact I felt at the time that this third movie was the best of the three. However, when I discussed the movie with a friend, I found that she had not enjoyed it. She kept pointing out little changes that I hadn’t noticed and complaining that it wasn’t like the book so she didn’t like it.

In light of this, my new plan for seeing movie adaptations is to either watch the movie before I read the book, so I can enjoy both, or wait to reread the book until after I’ve seen the movie. That way the storyline isn’t too fresh in my head. I guess I should have waited to reread the Hobbit until all three movies have been released, but I couldn’t wait. Oh well, hopefully I’ll still enjoy the movie and not be too critical of the filmmaker’s decisions.

So what’s your favorite movie adaptation and why? Or what book would you like to see turned into a movie? Leave a comment below.